#2,071: Justice League: Doom

The Conversation - ★★★½☆
A character study of a man eavesdropping on a Hitchcock film. Another movie I appreciate more now than I used to.

Do the Right Thing - ★★★☆☆
I watched this because it was a million degrees in my apartment and I was feeling freaked out about what's going on in Missouri and I wanted it to help. I think maybe it did, but not for the reasons I was expecting.

The Long Goodbye - ★★★½☆
I like a movie whose world has things that are true and universally accepted, even if those things are not necessarily true in our world. It doesn't create a sense of realism, exactly, but it makes their world seem more complete. Brothers Bloom did that well. This movie does it well. I liked this movie.

Nymph()maniac - Vol. 1: ★★★☆☆ - Vol. 2: ★★½☆☆
I haven't seen all or even most of Lars Von Trier's movies, but based on what I have seen, this was lighter and funnier than I was expecting. Volume 2 is a littler drearier. Like Kill Bill, you get most of your fun in volume 1, then volume 2 is just talk talk talk, comment on the inevitable nature of man, et cetera et cetera.

Justice League: Doom - ★★★★☆
DC beats Marvel by a long shot when it comes to direct-to-dvd / OVA type releases. Even the bad ones are generally higher quality than the Marvel releases, and this was a good one. It's a much smaller, easier-to-digest story than say, Superman: Doomsday, which did a great job with the first half, and then tried to cram 50-some comics into the last half hour.

I think DC has a tougher time explaining their characters solo books with the JLA / team books – like, it doesn't seem as though the shadowy urban legend-type Batman would also hang out in space or coach the JLI, and so their solution is to just ignore it. Batman can be and is everything for everyone at some point. The Batman in this story comes off a bit like a grumpy teen, but at least I could imagine him existing in both spheres. Between that and the illustrated difference in power levels on the JLA, the characterization was nicely handled here.

#2,067: Tim's Vermeer

For a couple weeks there, it was looking like I was going to be editing a feature-length documentary. Scary stuff. I watched a lot of documentaries while the threat was looming.

20 Feet from Stardom - ★★★★☆
It's fun to know that record producers in the day weren't just aping one another with soundalikes, they were actually just hiring the same singers to do everything. You always hear about folks picking sides between the Beatles or the Stones, and although I don't really care about the Beatles, I don't think I'd ever considered that I might prefer the Stones until I saw this. On the production side, the clearances department did as amazing a job as anyone on this. It's one expensive-lookin' movie.

Particle Fever - ★★☆☆☆
I guess my main draw to this project was the editor, as I struggle myself with editing a documentary. I think Walter Murch's presence was more noticeable in the sound design. It seems like there must be interesting stories in and around CERN, but this movie was a little bit snoozy. Another review said it felt more like late night cable and I think I agree.

Also, I'm worried about how close I might be to having a haircut like a physicist.

Downloaded - ★★☆☆☆
I just let netflix play me this one after Particle Fever. They did a fine enough job telling a story in a doc that looks like a doc looks in the age of DSLRs, but it's all pretty old news. So, technically apt, but kind of unnecessary. And now I'm all distracted by that song from Fallout 3 in the credits.

Tim's Vermeer - ★★★½☆
This story is better than this movie. I was kind of intrigued by how low-fi it is. Scenes in England seemed unnecessary, and there's a touch too much Penn; those were the places where the movie wanders a little, and I would have rather had more time to spend on Tim's work. (For instance, after all the worry about how many hours of usable daylight there would be, I would have liked to have been told the answer!) A good example of a doc that needed to be made at the time it was made. For one reason, if the process works, he's not going to want to repeat it for a film. For another, with a movie in the works, Tim is now making two pieces of art, and suffering for one might just help the other.

A buddhist walks up to a hot dog vendor…

“A buddhist walks up to a hot dog vendor and says, ‘make me one with everything.’”

I like that joke. it’s not mine, but I say it anytime someone says something to me that sounds like “You do stand-up? Tell me a joke."[1] I heard Robin Williams say it in Bicentennial Man.

Robin Williams has been the almost-exclusive topic of my social media for the past 24 hours. I assume that this is because I’m mainly internet friends with comedians, who are especially traumatized by the news. The one or two people I’m following on twitter who are posting advertisements for their books and kickstarters in the middle of it all seem unusually tone deaf, but it’s probably not their fault.

I mentioned a little while ago about how living in Los Angeles, trying to insinuate myself into the worlds of comedy and film have lead to meeting and working with a surprising number of high school Rob’s heroes. This means that when a family member sees me at Christmas and asks if I’ve ever met anyone famous, I do a quick flip through a mental rolodex of people I’m proud to have met and/or worked with, and then say “nah, not really no.’"[2]

But, I was at UCB in one of the periods when Robin Williams was dropping in at the theater. A bunch of improvisers have been sharing their memories of it on facebook.com. This is what I wrote on such a thread:

I was in that jam too. The scene was between two hairdressers, and he and I were the people getting their hair done, and we read our magazines and didn’t say anything. The hairdressers had some kind of fight or meltdown or killed each other or something, and we were left sitting there. I think maybe I asked him about his kids, and then someone wiped it. There was a later scene where I was trying to point someone in and he didn’t know what I was doing so he shook my hand and I was a little embarrassed that he thought I wanted a handshake in the middle of the set, or maybe at all.

But try explaining UCB’s Long Hard Improv Jam to your aunt in Ohio. “I did a scene on stage with Robin Williams once. We didn’t really meet, but we performed together.”


“No, not really, no.”

  1. What I really want to do in these moments is murmur “it’s not like thaaaat.” but if the person I’m talking to was going to pick up on a Maria Bamford reference, they wouldn’t’ve been asking in the first place.  ↩

  2. ”You know that lady in those target commercials from a couple years back? We had dinner once. She’s the best.”  ↩

#2,066: Into the Storm

Yeah there's another version of a GOT Galaxy review in here. I'd been trying a lot of ways to write about it that didn't make me feel like a troll, but my experience of it contrasted so sharply with that of most of my friends or internet acquaintances that I find it really jarring.

In the Loop - ★★★½☆
I liked this more on a second viewing. I feel like I got more of what was going on, but probably I'd just forgotten those details over the past 5 years. This isn't a very good review.

Side Effects - ★★½☆☆
Interesting, but not great. (Like a lot of Soderbergh b-sides.) I think that some of the disconnect for me was how long it took me to notice we'd switched protagonists. I was expecting more of a Manchurian Candidate type plot, so it was fun to be completely wrong about what I was getting into. Some of the third act seems too easy, but I guess seeing all the events in great detail would be a separate, slightly boring movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy - ★★☆☆☆
I was there on opening weekend because of the Marvel Studios logo, but then, I also saw Cars in the theater. Guardians is a bunch of lousy writing slathered in an Attack of the Clones-quantity of nonsensical CG. We're constantly told things instead of shown. Characters announce their development instead of exhibiting it. Gamorra actually shows us the opposite. There's no sense of actual danger or urgency, the references "jokes" are flat, every character has the same story arc, we had as much or more laying track for future movies as the parts of Iron Man 2 everyone supposedly hated...

I left the theater thinking the movie was okay but kind of boring, but the more I consider it (and in the week since, I've been thinking of it a lot, trying to figure out where it is I seem to have gone astray of the (almost suspiciously) overwhelming online opinion) the more its "hey, everyone, this is fun, right? Remember Star Wars guys? What if every character was Han Solo, that's fun, right?" shine is wearing off.

Maybe I'm just not as big a fan of the cosmic Marvel stuff. Or maybe it's comedy. Maybe that's what I don't like. Certainly I don't like the ironic detachment that this thing is soaking in.

Into the Storm - ★★★☆☆
I went to a screening of this with no advance information except the dialogue-free teaser from a few months ago. I was surprised to find out a) it was a found-footage movie, b) it's kind of a comedy, c) it stars Matt Walsh! The audience was more into it and on board than for probably anything else I've seen in a theater this year, which is the best way to see a movie. It's not a great film, but I think it did a great job of hitting its mark. Plus, the b-movie trappings do a great job of hiding the constant VFX. Sure, you know the big tornados are CG, but you look right past the constant sky replacements and foreground additions and debris and everything because you're busy laughing at a silly line or something. From a mock-doc perspective, they didn't cheat too much, and it was generally better motivated that some other recent entries, like End of Watch.

#2,065: Guardians of the Galaxy

I have a dissenting opinion. I don't want to, but here we are.

I went to Guardians of the Galaxy on opening weekend, and I didn't like it.

The response from friends, acquaintances, and internet jerks is overwhelmingly positive. Almost suspiciously positive. As a result, a) I worried about how I could have possibly missed out on such a fantastic experience, and b) it's tough to have a conversation about it on the internet without being shouted at. I had a fairly long discussion about the movie in the real world instead, to sort out a few things.

To be clear, I didn't hate it.  I didn't walk out of the theater mad that I watched it.  It's not like this is Transformers or Into the Wild, I just didn't really like it and I certainly didn't love it. I suspect it's my least favorite MCU title.